A Journal, with Pictures

Buenos Aires

by on Feb.10, 2016, under Happenings

Jan­u­ary 27, at 3:00 PM we arrive at the down­town air­port and are picked up by our escort after a looong wait for our bags. The natives are rest­less and guess what a demon­stra­tion almost breaks out over the delay. It must be Buenos Aires where demon­stra­tions have changed the course of the coun­tries his­to­ry. Being an admit­ted Argen­tine his­to­ry junkie, this is meca for me. Our first stop is the Teatro Colon (Colum­bus The­ater), where we meet a won­der­ful enthu­si­as­tic guide who tells us the his­to­ry of this amaz­ing build­ing. Con­struc­tion start­ed in 1889 and is South Amer­i­c­as most pres­ti­gious per­form­ing arts venue, which has been com­plete­ly ren­o­vat­ed to its for­mer glo­ry. As Argenti­na became rich, it was deter­mined that the coun­try must have a Opera House as grand as any in Europe, so five fam­i­lies went togeth­er and built it at their per­son­al expense. The acoustics are per­fect and the great­est per­form­ers in the world have per­formed there from Caru­so to Pavaroti. After the tour we checked into our hotel Pala­cio Duhau, anoth­er very nice hotel and room. We then walked to and dined at the incred­i­ble Fer­vor, which is a tra­di­tion­al Argen­tine steak house. A great steak and bot­tle of Cabernet/Malbec  from a win­ery we dis­cov­ered in Men­doza, perfect.

Thurs­day we begin the day with a vis­it to the his­toric Plaza de Mayo, anchored by the pres­i­den­tial palace know as the Casa Rosa­da (Pink House). The square in front of the palace, is sur­round­ed by oth­er impor­tant and his­toric build­ings, includ­ing the city hall, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan cathe­dral, the Argen­tine IRS and the Nation­al Bank. This is the place of many his­toric demon­stra­tions includ­ing the one that freed Juan Per­on, who would lat­er become pres­i­dent. Of course there are two mini-demon­stra­tions going on when we vis­it, one for pen­sions for the Faulk­lin Island war for those who nev­er left Argenti­na and for the wel­fare recip­i­ents who were get­ting paid off by a now imprison cor­rupt social admin­is­tra­tor Eva Per­on wannabe. It is Argenti­na after all and any­thing is pos­si­ble, just demonstrate.

We vis­it the Cathe­dral that looks more like a court house on the out­side. Inside is the tomb of the Gen­er­al Jose San Mar­tin who lib­er­at­ed Argenti­na from Spain in 1816. They had ruled since 1580, so many of the things that plague Argenti­na were implant­ed dur­ing the Span­ish rule, includ­ing the estab­lished landown­ers and cor­rup­tion. We then stop by the Argen­tine Leg­is­la­ture, for a pho­to, but based on recent his­to­ry, with the Per­o­nist par­ty Pres­i­dent who was called the “Empress” being recent­ly defeat­ed it does­n’t sound like they have had much to do there late­ly, its been main­ly gov­ern­ment by pres­i­den­tial decree. Since its warm our great guide Maria sug­gests an ice cof­fee which the Argen­tine’s do very well.

We then trav­el through the San Tel­mo dis­trict, the birth­place of Tan­go. This is a very his­toric area, one of Buenos Aires old­est dis­tricts that was aban­doned dur­ing a yel­low fever epi­dem­ic and now is a major tourist attrac­tion. We then pre­ced­ed to explore the near by La Boca (the mouth) dis­trict the orig­i­nal port at the mouth of the riv­er. The area was set­tled by immi­grants who paint­ed their shanties with bright ship paint and the col­or scheme persists.

That evening we dine at an incred­i­ble restau­rant called Chi­la, with authen­tic Argen­tine cui­sine. We then take in a great Tan­go show at Fae­na Hotel. Both the restau­rant and hotel are in a new area devel­oped from the sec­ond port that fell into dis­re­pair now has been rede­vel­oped to be “the” new place in Buenos Aires.

Time for a after din­ner drink on the ter­race at the hotel, the smoke from the next table has a very sweet smell, could it be, guess so. Time to get some sleep anoth­er full day of tour­ing tomor­row. Fri­day we tour the city’s north­ern area start­ing with the area around our hotel and then dri­ving to the bohemi­an-chic-neigh­bor­hood of Paler­mo. The for­mer grandeur of BA is appar­ent, with some pri­vate­ly owned man­sions still main­tained and oth­ers turned into com­mer­cial struc­tures. The old part of our hotel is a for­mer pri­vate man­sion and next door is a man­sion still main­tained by one of the old fam­i­lies. We then trav­el to a area with a old favorite morn­ing gath­er­ing place with a gigan­tic Ficus tree with inter­est­ing sup­ports for the limbs next the restaurant.

We then walk to one of the most inter­est­ing places in Buenos Aires, the old ceme­tery next to a old Span­ish Church. The rich and famous are entombed there in unique and some­time elab­o­rate tombs with in some cas­es under­ground cham­bers. For exam­ple, one famous indi­vid­ual want­ed to be buried in the Andes so his tomb is made from rocks brought from the moun­tains. The most famous tomb is that of Eva Per­on, final­ly placed in her fam­i­lies vault, since she had fall­en into dis­fa­vor with suc­ceed­ing regimes her body was removed from the orig­i­nal bur­ial place and hid­den out of the country.

We then fin­ish our tour of the north­ern area pass­ing the Hipo­dro­mo Argenti­na de Paler­mo, the first race track estab­lished in 1876. Stop and see the huge piece of art in the form of a flower, next to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Engi­neer­ing and then our final stop is at the Eva Per­on Muse­um. Her sto­ry is a fas­ci­nat­ing, mar­ry­ing the Pres­i­dent and becom­ing a nation­al fig­ure as the Dior clad first lady and sup­posed cham­pi­on of the poor. Her body was hid­den in Milan Italy by the oppo­si­tion par­ty and lat­er returned to Argenti­na in a hostage swap that was botched. Her dam­aged body was final­ly interned in the fam­i­ly tomb and she still is a sym­bol of the Per­o­nist party.

One of the biggest eth­nic ori­gins in Argenti­na is Ital­ian so we dine at a well known Ital­ian restau­rant on our last night then turn in ear­ly by Argen­tine stan­dards since we have an ear­ly flight to Iguas­su falls in the morn­ing. Buenos Aires is a beau­ti­ful city, with the worlds widest boule­vard and a def­i­nite old Euro­pean feel, with traces of its glo­ry days along side new mod­ern devel­op­ment that with a new more con­ser­v­a­tive gov­ern­ment seems to have giv­en the peo­ple renewed optimism.

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